Rather than listing out your experience in reverse chronological order, a functional or skills-based resume has bullet points that reflect how each of your skills is demonstrated by the work you’ve done over the course of your career. At the bottom, you’ll include everything else, such as your education, job history, professional achievements, community involvement, and other technical skills. This is a good option if you have a somewhat all-over-the-place work history and want to tie everything together neatly.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Perfect Resume (With Examples!)
Your resume is arguably the most valuable piece of paper for your career. But this document can be daunting for many. Maybe you’re not sure how to fit in all your information onto one page. Maybe you’re not sure about the right way to format and write your resume. Maybe you don’t even know what the heck a resume is!
A resume is a summary of your career, whether yours is just getting started or has been going on for years. Coming in at around one page in length (two only under specific circumstances), it showcases the jobs you’ve held and currently hold, the responsibilities you’ve taken on, the skills you’ve developed, and the qualities you bring to the table as an employee. Together, those things make it super easy for any hiring manager to see your qualifications and fit for a role.
For all the work you may put into writing one, hiring managers actually spend very little time—mere seconds in many cases—looking at your resume. But despite this sad fact, it’s safe to say that creating a great resume (rather than hastily throwing one together) still matters.
“If you miss the mark, your resume may never be read. Even worse, you might be removed from the applicant pool by a computer before a human even knows you exist,” says Muse career coach Heather Yurovsky, founder of Shatter & Shine. So you want to get it right because, as she explains, isn’t the goal to “spend less time looking for a job and more time in a role you love?”
You might be wondering if you can lean on your LinkedIn profile instead of writing a resume. The answer, sadly, is no. Most hiring managers still expect you to submit a resume, even if they also look at your LinkedIn. Even if you don’t need a resume for a job you’re applying for now, you’re going to need one at some point in your career—they’re not anywhere close to going out of style. So it’s best to always have one at the ready should an opportunity pop up.
And although LinkedIn has plenty of benefits, a resume has one clear advantage: While your LinkedIn is usually a broader picture of your career trajectory, your resume gives you the opportunity to tailor your career story to a specific role or company (more on that later).
What Are Employers Looking for in a Resume?
Hiring managers look for three things on your resume, “What did you do? Why did you do it? And what was the result?” says Muse career coach Martin McGovern, owner of Career Therapy. “If you can answer all three of these questions in. your resume bullet points, you’re going to be on the right track.”
Clear, easy-to-understand language is key. “The truth is that most resumes make no sense. They are stuffed with jargon, they are too technical, and they are filled with redundancies. Try to read a resume that isn’t yours and you will quickly realize that it feels like an alien wrote it,” McGovern adds. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter who has no idea how your role works—how can you make your resume accessible to them?
The hiring manager also cares about more than just you and you alone—they care about you in relation to them. “Hiring managers want to see if a candidate matches the requirements” of the role they’re hiring for, Yurovsky explains. “Your resume should paint this picture so the hiring manager not only knows what day-to-day responsibilities you can handle, but why you, above other[s], bring value to their organization.”
Resume Content – What to Mention on Your Resume
Resume Summary or Objective
The same applies to your job search – the HR manager spends around 6 seconds scanning each resume. Yep, your carefully-worded, hand-crafted resume only gets 6 seconds of attention. Unless, of course, you manage to leave an amazing first impression.
What’s a Resume Summary & When to Use it
A resume summary is a 2-3 sentence summary of your career. You should use a resume summary in basically any situation, unless you’re a recent university graduate or switching careers (in that case, you use a resume objective. More on that later!).
What’s a Resume Objective & When to Use it
How to List Work Experience in a Resume
- Job Title/Position – Your job title goes on top of each work experience entry. When the HR manager scans your resume, you want them to know, at a glance, that you have relevant work experience for the job.
- Company Name / Location / Description – Then, you mention the name of the relevant employer, as well as the location of the office you work/have worked in. In some cases, you may also want to briefly describe the company, if the organization is not a famous household name.
- Achievements and Responsibilities – This is the core of each work experience entry. Depending on your field, you want to list either your achievements or responsibilities. We’ll get more into the how’s and why’s of this in a bit.
- Dates Employed – The timeframe of your employment in each company. Not sure about the exact dates you worked somewhere? Don’t worry – you don’t have to be accurate by the day, as long as it’s close. The standard format expected by recruiters and employers is mm/yyyy (this is especially important when your job application will be parsed by an Applicant Tracking System).
List Achievements When Possible
Tailor Your Resume to the Job
So, let’s cover a simple example on how to do this. Let’s say that after reading the following job ad for the position of a digital marketer, you discover that the most critical requirements for the job are:
How much work experience do you include in your resume?
If you’ve got over a decade’s worth of work experience, you’re probably confused about how much of it you mention in your resume. After all, If you had to list everything you’ve ever done, you’d end up writing a mini-novella.
How to List Education on Your Resume
Emphasize Your Know-How with the Skills Section
Soft Skills (Personal skills). These are a mix of social skills, communication skills, personal traits, career attributes, and so on. Leadership, critical thinking, management, and communication, just to name a few.
How to List Skills in Your Resume
Expert – You’ve applied this skill in more than a handful of different projects & organizations. You’re the go-to person for advice about the skill, not just in your office, but even amongst some of the best professionals in your field.
Imagine your first task at work as an Illustrator – to create a graphic vector to go nicely with an article. If you end up delivering a hastily drawn stick figure colored with a paint bucket tool in Microsoft Paint, you’ll be out of the job before your probation period ends.
Step #2 – Tailor Your Skills to the Job. You might have some super rare, awesome skills, but they’re not always going to be useful. For example, it’s awesome that you know accounting, but would you really need it at your new job as a line cook? Exactly!
List Your Relevant Work Experience & Key Achievements
How to format the resume work experience section
- Job Title—This should go at the very top of each entry of work history so that it’s easy for potential employers to scan and find. Make it bold and/or increase the font size by 1pt or 2pts from the rest of the entry.
- Company, City, State—On the second line, include the previous employer’s company name, and the city and state of the location you worked at.
- Dates Employed—Thirdly, put the timeframe of your employment there. You can add the year or both the month and the year, but there’s no need to put exact days.
- Key Responsibilities—Don’t just list every single task you did in your job history. Focus on the few duties most relevant to the new job.
- Key Achievements—Often overlooked, but super important. Employers know what you did, but they need to know how well you did them.
- Keywords—It is important to sprinkle resume keywords throughout the experience section (we’ll talk more about this shortly).
Also, your experience section resume bullet points should go near the top, just under your heading statement. However, if you have little or no professional experience, put your education section above your work history.
Think about accomplishments you’ve had, not necessarily meaning solid sales numbers or percentages. Were you involved in something that had great success? If so, include it! Showing what you’ve done beyond your daily duties is what will prompt employers to call you. Employers want to hire someone who exhibits motivation, participation, and ambition.
Tailoring your resume work experience
As hiring practices continue to modernize, larger companies are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATS) to give them a hand. ATS software automates the early stages of the recruitment process. How? They look for keywords and assign a score per candidate.
How much work experience to include on a resume?
First-time job hunters with no work experience can still include other history, such as a student organization role, internship, or volunteer experience, to fill out their experience section.
As you learn how to write a resume, remember the best resume templates will highlight your experience and eligibility. Don’t hide it with the wrong order, a dull resume layout, or a template free of character. With dozens of good resume examples, templates, and styles, Zety is the best resume builder online.
5. Target your work experience to the job ad
To make your work experience section shine, target each bullet point to the specific job you want. Look carefully at the skills mentioned in the description, and showcase any of those skills you have with clear examples.
This marketing job ad features many hard and soft skills you can add to your resume.
Taylord’s Marketing Firm, Reno, NV
July 2017 – August 2018
• Collaborated with the outreach department to develop innovative marketing solutions for 6 unique products
• Developed branding materials for a new mobile app, resulting in a 14% increase in sales
• Analyzed weekly performance statistics, ensuring that effectiveness of outbound marketing activities
Not only does tailoring your experience section to the job ad make your resume more attractive to employers, but it also helps you get through the applicant tracking system (ATS) software that many large companies use.
ATS software automatically scans your resume for specific skill-related keywords to determine if you’re qualified for the role. If the software doesn’t find the keywords it’s looking for, it automatically rejects your application before a hiring manager even gets to see it.